From monk to missionary
Benedictine monk leaves monastery to follow his missionary vocation
I went a long way as a Benedictine monk, from 2007 to 2022 then, for a great mission I left my dreams to follow those God reserved for me. My dream was to live and die in a monastery accompanied by prayer, silence and seclusion. I was confused, not understanding what was happening to me. I let the dream of God’s mercy work on me because if our desires can frustrate us, God’s cannot.
My life was like a small boat looking for the right direction and the world like the ocean. Only in prayer and Eucharistic Adoration did I find peace without being confused by the noise of the waves. Without God’s mercy my faith would have sunk. The Lord offered me a new chance before the years wore out, the missionary one.
The Lord leads us to serve where there is a hungry person to feed, a thirsty person to quench thirst, a naked person to clothe, a pilgrim to give refreshment, a sick person to care for, a prisoner to visit, a dead person to bury. He calls us to be present where men need good counsel, where there are people to teach and others to forgive. He calls us to correct those who err, to console the sad, to accompany the harassed, to pray. Although I do not know you I can be an instrument of the Lord.
My mission is to do God’s will. Philippians 4:13 says “I can all things in Christ who strengthens me.” Once we recognize Jesus as the Son of God, He entrusts us with a mission: to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. The written, told and witnessed Gospel has been given to us so that we may have life in God.
In my heart I have a “monastery” where in silence I pray and listen to Jesus, but in my active life I live the vocation of a seminarian preparing for ordination in the Diocese of Lucca, and I have understood that the mission of a priest is service, giving and a sign of Christ’s presence among men through the proclamation of the Gospel, watching over the brothers and helping them to grow in faith.
Speak from the heart and put your words into practice. Priest means being a man for others, someone who seeks to serve rather than be served and encourages others to do the same. Celebrate the sacraments with simple dignity,baptize “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” be called to sacrifice and offer sacrifice. Celebrate the Eucharist and invite others to participate in the Body and Blood of Jesus. An act of love that of the priest who devotes himself to missionary work.
I have had a few mission experiences in my life and I share two of them
The first, as a volunteer at Fazenda da Esperança in Brazil and around the world, which is a therapeutic community that has been active since 1983 in the recovery process of people seeking to free themselves from their addictions, particularly alcohol and drugs. The welcoming method contemplates three determining aspects: work as a pedagogical process, attention to family life, and spirituality to find the meaning of life. From this experience I have learned that giving also implies “paying back” for what has been added to one’s life. An act of surrender of which we have to get used to and of which love is the only compass.
The second experience I had was in Rio de Janeiro, in Lapa where the Missionarias da Caridade, in addition to helping the homeless, take care of the elderly, whom we affectionately call ‘oldies,’ people abandoned by their families in hospitals or left alone at home. Several of them also present some mental problems. The routine begins with a prayer at 5 a.m. Then the sisters and volunteers start taking care of the house, plants and personal belongings such as clothes. Following lunch, everyone goes to their own room to make room for guests from the street who come in, pray and eat. Three times a week they can wash in the bathrooms the house has. This missionary experience made me think a lot. The departure of the volunteers also determined that the heaviest work was left to the sisters. To get to the sink and wash the pots and pans I often took a stool, while washing I cleared my mind of everything that was not God and along with the pots and pans I also washed my soul, many times listening and sharing with the sisters the pains of mission and the joy of service. Service that is hardly visible, but transforms the lives of those who dedicate themselves to charity. In today’s world, this care for the poorest reminds people of the importance of being human in everyday life. I remember this place as a point of light in the darkness of the lives of so many who are on the streets, the smell emanating from the people living on the streets of downtown Rio, each with their backpack on their shoulders and a handful of stories that, outside of there, no one wants to hear. I carry within me gratitude, friendship for the Missionarias da Caridade who helped me in my poverty.
The life of a Benedictine monk rests on two pillars: prayer and work
To be a monk is to seek God in contemplation. The Benedictine monk finds fulfillment in himself and others through the various activities he does in the monastery. He must be a prayerful presence, in the Church and for the Church, balancing a life of prayer with the innumerable works that the monastery does for the support of the Community and for the edification of the brothers. Above all, St. Benedict preached a life of sobriety and humility, the aim of which was to reach the summit of virtues and contemplation.
I prayed, I tried to be honest with Jesus when I understood that I could do much more as a missionary outside the monastery than as a monk. One day, in prayer, I came to know the figure of St. Gemma Galgani. With her I opened my mind and heart and let God’s dreams act in me. I often forgot that one cannot be happy without doing God’s will. With the help of St. Gemma who made me trust in love urged me to abandon myself to Jesus, I found my place in the Diocese of Lucca, in a serene and strong way, even though it was a land far from my country, Brazil. St. Gemma before she died asked Our Lady to intercede with Jesus to use Mercy toward her, and so I feel that she is doing the same for me.
To be a seminarian is to be a missionary, to have the will to go out of oneself. It is not easy to be a missionary, but for those who are seminarians it is necessary. It is the decision to go out, to leave the comfort zone and ease, to run and experience God. We all need to be on the journey, and the Church always reminds Christians that this world is not where we belong. We are in procession to Heaven.